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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Jim Gaffigan

Chuck (2017)

Rocky who? Oh yeah, that guy.

Chuck Wepner (Liev Schrieber), for quite some time, had the life that any person would have wanted to live. He was an accomplished boxer, kicked a lot of people’s assess, had a wonderful wife (Elizabeth Moss), good kids, loyal friends and family, respect, a cool nickname (“the Bayonne Bleeder”), and oh yeah, went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali. In fact, he was so well-known that, believe it or not, Sylvester Stallone actually used his life and career as the inspiration for Rocky – a fact that, for a very long time, Chuck would continue to let everyone know about, regardless of if they asked or not. But after awhile, Chuck began to get too big of britches and, to go along with his insane drug-habit, he couldn’t stop screwing around with all the wrong people, other women included. Eventually, he loses his job, his wife, his legacy, and oh yeah, his family. So where does he go from there?

No really, where does he go from there?

Uh oh. Chucky go some ‘asplainin’ to do!

See, Chuck was advertised heavily as “the story of the guy who inspired the story of Rocky“, as if any of that really matters. It’s like when John Carter came out and the advertisements were all saying, “the story that inspired Star Wars and Avatar“, once again, as if any of that matters. Because even though the story may have inspired another one, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the adaptation of said story, isn’t conventional, or formulaic.

After all, we didn’t get Chuck before Rocky. The other way around, in fact. So because of that, Chuck comes off a bit like a run-of-the-mill, stationary biopic that hits all of the same beats and rhythymns that Rocky hit, but also feels a little overdone. Because instead of feeling like a movie, of its time, like Rocky did, Chuck goes the extra mile to put us in the place of the 70’s, where coke was everywhere, disco was constantly playing, and people dressed-up so super fly.

Does it kind of work?

Yeah.

It’s hard to have an issue with a movie that makes the energy and glitz of the 70’s so fun and infectious; if anything, it’s nice that they were able to get it all down so perfectly, without feeling like they were trying way too hard to recreate a period of time that they obviously didn’t have the budget for. Director Philippe Falardeau, while no doubt a very serious French director, also seems to be enjoying himself here, not allowing for the material to get too dark or serious, but just to the point where it matters. But for the most part, he’s having a good time and relishing in the period-setting and the details that all went along with it.

Does that help take away from the fact that Chuck is a little conventional and, well, as a result, slight? Not really. But it makes what could have been a very boring movie, turn out a lot more fun and entertaining. It’s still a formulaic boxing movie, about an underdog who had his shot at the big time, accomplished it, and then lost it all due to awful life decisions, but it’s an entertaining one, at that. So yeah, it helps.

All about the hair.

And yeah, it also helps that the ensemble is quite good here and clearly able to keep up with the times.

Liev Schreiber is perfect casting as Wepner, because he not just looks the role, but feels it. There’s something lovable about him, but also makes you realize that he’s a bit of flawed asshole who you can’t always trust, especially not with your wallet or wife, but can always still love, when the end of the day comes around. And that’s what matters for a story like this, about a guy like this, who definitely didn’t make perfect decisions, but was a good time to be around. He had his moment in the spotlight, made it last, and did what he could to keep the party going? Granted, he forgot about his wife, kids, bank-account, and plenty other responsibilities, but hey, who am I to judge?

Either way, Schreiber’s great in the role that he was, essentially, born to play. Everyone else is good from Elizabeth Moss as his annoyed, but strong wife, to Jim Gaffigan in a pretty silly role. But everyone’s good here; even the bit role with Naomi Watts, while feeling a little self-serving, still works because, believe it or not, her and Schreiber do have good chemistry.

See, not every couple has to have their own Gigli.

Maybe that’s why they’re broken-up now. Ugh. True love doesn’t last, people. So love the one you’re with and try to make it last.

That’s the moral of Chuck, right?

Consensus: Formulaic and run-of-the-mill, Chuck is a boxing-drama that doesn’t really break any new ground, but is fun, light, and well-acted enough to get by the conventions that usually keep movies down like this.

6.5 / 10

“Guys. Who’s Sly?”

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

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Experimenter (2015)

Doesn’t matter how many volts it is, being shocked freakin’ hurts!

In 1961, famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) concocted a psychological experiment that, on the surface, seemed simple and easy, but once looked at deep enough, turned out to be quite disturbingly complex. What Milgram would do in this research study, was have one person be on one side of a glass door, get them strapped-up to a machine that delivered electric shocks and have the other person involved with the study ask them to reiterate phrases that they say. If the person on the other side of the door got it wrong, the person in control of the electrical volts were supposed to deliver as high of a shock as they were instructed to do so, no matter how much pain or anguish the person on the other side of the door sounded, or better yet, appeared to be in. Obviously, people question what to do next and whether or not to deliver the shock because, what they think at least, is that the other person is being shocked, nearly to death – little do they know is that said person being shocked-to-death, isn’t actually being shocked at all and is just testing to see how far and willing these subjects are able to go with the shocks.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that. Or in general.

And that, my friends, is what we call in the psychology biz, “the Milgram Experiment“.

Everything about the whole Milgram Experiment and the ideas about humans that it brings up is actually pretty interesting. Milgram, as he tells us quite often throughout, is trying to test the limits of just how far humans will go when they are given, as plainly defined, an assignment; while nobody apart of the experiment may actually be bad people who enjoy inflicting cruel and unusual punishment onto random strangers, at the same time, they’re given this assignment to do and have to keep with it, no matter what. So of course, they trudge on along and continue to zap, and zap, and zap away at the other subject, without wholly fighting the system that is telling them to do so.

If this sounds a whole lot like the Nazis well then, you hit the nail right on the head. Milgram himself, as he tells us constantly throughout the movie, tells us that his parents were apart of the concentration camps before they came to America and it’s interesting to see how this needle-and-thread narrative constantly gets weaved-in throughout, even while we’re learning of just what kind of person Milgram actually was. While writer/director Michael Almereyda has a lot to work with here, in terms of handling the biopic-form of this person’s life, as well as throwing that person’s own ideas into the narrative, he doesn’t lose himself on the material, either.

At the same time, however, it’s hard not to watch Experimenter as two different movies into one, with one being definitely far more interesting and better than the other.

But still, even the one that is off worse, isn’t terrible. The only issue with the part of the movie focusing on Milgram’s personal life, is that Milgram himself, isn’t all that intriguing of a person to begin with. Sure, the studies he concocts are, but overall, him as a person, is quite dry and uneventful, which calls into question why we needed such a film dedicated to telling his whole story, and less about the study itself. Of course, Almereyda does fine with showing us plenty of the study happening, but it’s sometimes so effective and compelling to watch, that it’s not hard to wish that it was just the whole film, with Milgram occasionally looking towards the camera to talk to us.

See? Winona doesn't even trust him.

See? Winona doesn’t even trust him.

Still though, Almereyda does some neat things with the biopic-form, in that he definitely understands that the material he’s working with isn’t all that exciting or eye-popping, so instead, he finds ways to make it so. There’s a random scene about half-way through where Milgram and his wife are driving in front of what’s clearly a walled-in background, but for some reason, it’s done on purpose. It’s meant to campy, odd, dated, and over-the-top, but so is the rest of the film, which doesn’t totally work, but is still interesting to think about and wonder why, among everything else, why Almereyda decided to do such a thing?

Is he trying to say something about people’s perceptions? Or, is he just trying to keep our minds off of material that’s not really all that strong to begin with?

Either way, it doesn’t matter because it makes Experimenter a bit more watchable than it probably could have been had it just focused in on Milgram, his life, and leaving it at that. This isn’t to say that Sarsgaard doesn’t do a fine job in the role of Milgram, as he has that perfect blend for dull weirdness, but at the same time, it’s hard not to imagine what could have happened to this character, had there been maybe more to him. We see him act around his family and such, just as he does at the office and none of it’s really intriguing; his studies may be, but he himself, isn’t really something to speak about, let alone see a whole movie about.

Again though, Experimenter isn’t a very long movie. At nearly an-hour-and-a-half, it moves on by, showing us all the study, making us wonder what we’d do in the same position, and providing plenty of food-for-thought about the whole human race. Will it have you not trusting people for the rest of your days? Maybe, not maybe not. But either way, it’s worth checking out, if only because it will bring some energy to your brain during the dead of winter that is January.

Consensus: Though it’s two movies into one, Experimenter brings up enough interesting questions and ideas about the human condition that makes it worthwhile to look past some of the flaws in its narrative.

6 / 10

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they're not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they’re not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)

Cheesy titles don’t always make cheesy movies.

Being a teenager is too much for 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist), who shocks his parents (Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan) by checking himself into a mental health clinic for a little R & R. But when the youth ward is unexpectedly closed, he’s forced to live among the adult patients.

Being a teenager can be a bitch, hell, I should know because even though I’am the big 18, that still means I have lots of more problems to come along with me in life. All teenagers have gone through that time in life where you all of a sudden get very sad, depressed, and almost start changing into a whole different person. This actually happened to me and in order to get my sadness out of me, I made what you now may know as, Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews. Yes, sadness created this happy-go-lucky review site.

The tag-team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (‘Half Nelson, ‘Sugar‘) capture what it is to be sad and almost feel like you are the only one who feels like this. They also have a great deal of funny moments that really kept me laughing and get past more of the fluffy moments that actually happen. There is drama here as well but it’s not particularly over-dramatic which was good, but in a way, a little bit of a problem that I had with this film.

The film made me feel for the characters and get attached to the story but there were too many moments where I felt like this film fell into the fun-loving idea of these little teenagers being teenagers, and stepped away from the sadness that happens with depression and suicide. There were times where it got a little dark, but never to the point of where it felt compelling or believable enough. I guess that Boden and Fleck were afraid to get too dark and depressive when they have all of these funny moments but I still would have liked to see more.

Another part of this film I never understood was why exactly were these crazy people and suicidal people in the same exact ward together? I realize I may be nit-picking just a bit but I don’t think that totally insane people would be together with these angsty kids that are on the suicide watch or anything. I also never understood why all of these kids brought Craig stuff from the outside world but the stuff was never checked and how anybody could bring anything they wanted to bring. I mean if a kid really wanted to off himself, he could have easily just called up his best bud to bring him his gun. It would be as easy that.

The cast is fun and probably what always makes this film fun to watch. Keir Gilchrist is pretty good as the nervous, sort of sad, and pretty awkward Craig that always seems to know how his potential but for some reason can’t get by it. Gilchrist is good at making this character likable even though we never understand fully as to why he’s so sad, but it’s easy to actually stand behind the kid. Emma Roberts is also good as his little romantic interest, a girl named Noelle, who even though we never understand why she’s in there, we just know that she is cool and always lets Craig be himself, when it seems like he never will. They create a good chemistry together but they weren’t in this film together as much as I was expecting.

The best part of this whole cast was actually Zach Galifianakis as Bobby. Zach is so good here because he shows a lot of the usual goofy and eccentric comedy that has made him so known, but he’s not as hyper and crazy as he usually is, which probably makes him a lot easier to stand as a character. Bobby also has a very dark side to him which is what Zach shows a lot of promise in basically having you really get behind his character, and believe that this guy could be so funny, yet so sad deep down inside.

Consensus: It’s Kind of a Funny Story is pretty funny, entertaining, and features a lot of heart as well, but it almost feels like it’s a little too scared to step into some very dark spots where I think it would have really worked a whole lot more if the directors and writers went that extra mile.

7/10=Rental!!

Going the Distance (2010)

A poor man’s Judd Apatow comedy, but still a good one.

New couple Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long) don’t want their summer fling to end, but Erin must move across the country to finish school. As the bicoastal lovers try to keep their relationship going, they experience the tricky challenges of living long-distance.

This is one of those feel good films that is pretty self-explanatory: you know the general plot before you go in so there are no surprises as to what the film is about or how it will end. However, it’s not such a bad trip in between the beginning and the end.

The reason this film works is because is it’s very well-written. The comedy surprisingly works great for this type of material because at the center of this little romantic storyline going on, the raunchy material holds it out with a great balance. I found myself with a lot of belly laughs here and surprisingly a lot of insight as well.

I have never been in a long-distance relationship but from what it seems like, it’s hard and this film shows how hard it is in every way. From the non-stop texting, to the temptation, late night calls, dates on Skype, and finding any way possible to pleasure the other person are all what happens in a long-distance relationship and this film shows it in a sort of 21st century way. There was some honest truth to a lot of what was being said in this film too where these two have problems actually coping with the fact that they may not always be together and like each other the whole time which made me feel like I was listening to actual conversations and not just another crappy rom-com.

However, the problem with this film I felt was the fact that it kind of gets really dry right in the middle where very little laughs actually happen, and we are forced to focus on the fact that these two are having “problems”. It still had some insight but for this brief moment of about 30 minutes, it was what we always see in every rom-com which kind of disappointed me in a way. There were also many times where this film would bring something up but never expand on it such as temptation for both sides and I thought they ere going to start talking about it, but never really went with it fully and seem kind of strange.

Drew Barrymore is lovely and a really smart leading lady because she makes a character that you really like, and you wanna see her and her relationship succeed. She also drinks, smokes, curses, and bangs a lot during this film and I have to say that it showed me an edgier side of her that I liked and a side she pulled 0ff very well. Justin Long a good fit here because he’s kind of a goofball at times, but still has that underlining scent of sincerity to him that makes him very likable. It has been said about plenty of actual real-life couples don’t actually click well together on-screen, but whatever these two got going on in real-life translates well into their work together. Christina Applegate plays the protective older sister, Corrine, and is a comedic pro who can do stuck-up without seeming stuck-up. Let’s not also forget Jim Gaffigan as her hubby who always makes me laugh. Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play Long’s buddies, Box and Dan, who are the two neighbor/buddy characters that are straight out of a sitcom, but a funny sitcom and I found myself laughing my ass off at them the most.

Consensus: Going the Distance gets a little dry in the middle, but is still very funny with a lot of cuteness as well as a hint of insight, however the raunchy comedy and the amazing cast had me laughing the most and is what makes this better than your average romantic comedy.

7.5/10=Rental!!